Pete Alexion is a Vietnam vet. He served 20 years in the U.S. Army, where he had a top secret security clearance, and today holds a CDL (commercial driver’s license) with a hazmat endorsement. He lives in North Pole, Alaska. He’s an agricultural copywriter and moonlights as a biology adjunct professor. He wears two knee braces.
Last year, on October 17, 2011 to be exact, Alexion was getting ready to fly out of Fairbanks International Airport. He said he hadn’t flown in several years so he didn’t know all the particulars of how security had changed.
After he went through the strip-search scanner, he was pulled aside and told he had to be more thoroughly searched. He was put into the glassed-in booth and given a “comprehensive” pat-down. Then the TSA agent took his wallet and told him it had to be scanned.
Alexion says he thought that was kind of strange, but since he hadn’t flown in so long, he figured that must be the new rule. “I’m ex-military,” he says. “I’m pretty much used to rules.” The TSA agent, Alexion says, sauntered away.
He was gone for quite a while.
When he returned, he handed the wallet back to Alexion, then quickly departed. “He was anxious to get away,” says Alexion. “He left very rapidly. I looked in the wallet and saw a lot of the money was gone.”
Alexion declined to reveal the exact amount.
He’s still, over a year later, trying to find out what happened. He’s been stonewalled every step of the way.
He first requested via email that the video of his encounter be released, whereupon the TSA told him no problem, they could do it, but they would have to charge him a fee. He said okay. He never heard from them again.
Then he appealed to officials at the Fairbanks airport. They told him they reviewed the video and didn’t see anything wrong. He again requested that they give him a copy. They refused. They suggested he fill out a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. He did.
Still getting no relief, Alexion went to his Congressional representative, Don Young. Then, last month, Young’s assistant sent Alexion an email stating:
“I wanted to let you know that I have heard from TSA about your case. Because of the severity of the case, they have the TSA headquarters taking this on. They are taking this very seriously and hope to have something for you very soon. What they did explain to me is that they will most likely not be able to make you a copy of the tape due to their policies, but could probably have you come in to view it. They will be contacting me in the next couple of days to let me know what it is they will be able to do for you. They did express that it is unacceptable that it has taken so long to help you with this and passed on their sincere apologies.”
Since then, Alexion has heard nothing. He’s still wondering about that video. As he put it, “Even a six-year-old knows how to take a video and pass it on. Why can’t the TSA manage to do this?”
As we know, theft by TSA agents is nothing new. Whether it’s jewelry, iPads, lingerie, cupcakes, or cash, many TSA agents have sticky fingers. Former TSA agent Pythias Brown, who spent three years in prison for stealing from luggage, says TSA theft is rampant.
Then again, I guess you could say people who only get things stolen are lucky. After all, they could be physically assaulted instead.
Good luck to Alexion in getting any answers from the TSA. As other people can attest, his complaint will probably go into the circular file. As for that video footage, it can sometimes mysteriously go missing. Just ask Stacey Armato or Jon Corbett.
Pete Alexion is a member of a political action committee that has drawn up a legislative proposal addressing the TSA. You can read about it here. He told us he’ll keep us apprised of what happens in his TSA saga.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Dustin Moore)